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The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters

Second paragraph of third chapter:
I'd begun to like the Ayreses for their own sake, too. It was Caroline I saw most. I discovered that she walked in the park almost daily, so I'd often catch sight of her unmistakable long-legged, broad-hipped figure, with Gyp cutting a way through the long grass at her side. If she was close enough I would stop the car and wind down my window, and we'd chat, as we had that time in the lane. She seemed to be always in the middle of some chore, always had a bag or a basket with her, filled with fruit, or mushrooms, or sticks for kindling. She might as well, I thought, have been a farmer's daughter; the more I saw of things at Hundreds, the sorrier I was that her life, like that of her brother, had so much work in it and so few pleasures. One day a neighbour of mine presented me with a couple of jars of honey from his hives, for having seen his son safely through a bad dose of whooping cough. I remembered Caroline's having longed for honey on my very first visit to the house, so I gave one of the jars to her. I did it casually, but she seemed amazed and delighted by the gift, holding up the jar to catch the sunlight, showing her mother.
I was disappointed by this, frankly. The best part of the book is a sensitive study of a landed gentry family under economic pressure immediately after the Second World War (the Labour Government is blamed by some of the characters, though I think not by the author), as told by the local doctor whose mother had briefly worked at the big house as a servant. Strange occurrences blight the health of the Ayres family and the doctor’s romance with the daughter of the house; and in the end I felt the book unsuccessfully tried to straddle the genres of horror fiction and Aga saga without really subverting either (though I also admit that neither horror nor Aga sagas are really my thing). Great characterisation and descriptions, shame about the fundamentals of the plot. If you like, you can get it here.

I thought that this was my top unread non-sf fiction book, but in fact I’m reclassifying it as sf. It was also my top unread book by a woman, and my top unread book acquired this year. The next book in the first two of those piles is Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively; next in the other pile is Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson.

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